The Best Family
Joseph and Henry Best immigrated as children to Australia from Surrey, England in 1834. The family first landed in Tasmania but moved to Melbourne soon after. In the 1850s, the brothers moved west to Ararat, Victoria, with thousands of other fortune seekers in the Victorian Gold Rush. The Bests were entrepreneurial types and saw more profit in looking after the miner’s requirements, so they formed a butchery business supplying meat to the miners.
In 1865, Joseph Best noted the early success of the first wine growers in the district and planted vines for himself with cuttings from the original St Peters Vineyard nearby. The following year, his brother Henry established his own vineyard to the west, named after the Concongella Creek. Henry planted 30 hectares of vines with about 3km of frontage along the creek. He named the property Concongella.
While his knowledge of wine was minimal, Henry’s capacity for work was profound. He built the original winery and underground cellars using his own hands and the skilled labour of local gold miners; both are still in working use today.
Henry Best’s meticulous attention to detail, experimentation and desire to find the best grape varieties for his vineyard resulted in Best’s wines becoming well known in England and throughout Europe. That attention to detail and innovation is highly valued at Best’s and is still evident in all its wine production today.
After Henry’s death, his son Charles sold the enterprise in 1920 to second-generation local vigneron Frederick P. Thomson. And so, it was at this time that the Thomson family’s career with this famed winery began.
Viv Thomson, Frederick’s son, talks about some of the early history of Best’s in this short video.